Personal grooming and dementia

People with dementia may need help with personal grooming. Read tips for how carers can give support.

If the person with dementia usually styles their hair, wears make-up, aftershave or perfume and wants to continue doing so, they may need help putting them on or with styling.

You should be aware of the likes and preferences of the person with dementia, and not to make assumptions about how they would like to look or what others think they should wear.

Outfits, accessories, or make-up that they choose may have religious, cultural or sentimental importance to the person and be an important part of their identity.

As long as they are not at risk of harm, it is important that you allow a person with dementia to express their identity through choices about their appearance.

Photographs are a good way of remembering how the person likes to wear their hair, make-up, clothes or accessories. You could also photograph complete outfits to give the person a prompt of what goes with what.

Tips for carers to support with personal grooming

Some people find personal grooming such as manicures or pedicures, massage, or hair appointments very relaxing and may enjoy this as a social and pleasurable activity. The person might be used to going to the beauty salon, hairdresser or barber and may want to continue to do this.

Some people may prefer to have a haircut or treatments at home. As a carer, you might find the following tips helpful:

  • After washing, the person may have a favourite way of drying and styling their hair, which you or a hairdresser or barber can help with. It might be as simple as brushing it through once their hair has dried.
  • Support the person to continue using their preferred deodorant. If they have difficulty using their usual deodorant try finding the same scent in a different form – for example using a smaller size which may be easier to hold, or using a roll-on instead of a spray.
  • If the person is having trouble applying make-up, suggest ways that you could help them or ways that they could simplify things. For example, they could use less make-up or use the same product for different purposes, such as using an eyebrow pencil as eyeliner too. Extra wide pencils and lipsticks can also be easier to hold.
  • If the person doesn’t recognise themselves in the mirror or finds reflections confusing, consider covering the mirror.
  • If the person has always worn contact lenses, they may be able to continue doing so as long as they are able to maintain good hygiene. It is important to regularly check this, to make sure they do not damage their eyes.
  • If the person wears glasses, make sure these are cleaned every day.
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